PASCO COUNTY, Florida – A former University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign student was arrested early Tuesday morning at his Florida home after threatening to engage in violence on the Urbana campus.
Jonathan A. Zheng, 22, of Wesley Chapel, Florida, was arrested by the Pasco Sheriff’s Office (PSO) on a preliminary charge of Written Threats to Kill or Conduct a Mass Shooting. The arrest resulted from coordination between PSO and the University of Illinois Police Department (UIPD).
UIPD was first alerted to the post at about 7:30 p.m. Monday by a Reddit user who was alarmed by its content. Zheng allegedly used an anonymous username to write on the “UIUC” subreddit that he planned to “shoot up the school.” The post, which has since been removed from Reddit, contained additional threatening content.
UIPD quickly obtained digital evidence associated with the post and determined that it originated in Pasco County, Florida. UIPD coordinated with PSO, and PSO deputies made contact with Zheng at his Florida home. According to PSO, Zheng told deputies that he wrote the post.
Zheng was booked into the Pasco County Jail early Tuesday morning. The investigation is ongoing, and UIPD is working with federal authorities to explore additional charges.
Zheng previously was dismissed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Further information about his student record cannot be made available.
“There were a lot of moving parts to this investigation in a very quick timeframe,” said U. of I. Police Chief Alice Cary. “For one thing, we had an observant community member who immediately reported alarming social media content.”
Members of the community truly are the first line of defense against violence. Immediately reporting suspicious activity – especially threatening or violent activity – is critical to helping law enforcement act in a timely manner.
“Police investigators acted quickly to identify the person responsible, and law enforcement cooperation extended beyond state lines,” Cary said. “Everyone involved recognized the seriousness of this threat and acted immediately to keep our campus community safe.”
Please note, those arrested are presumed innocent until proved guilty, and formal charges may change as cases are adjudicated.